BELMAR — The death of Salvatore Marchese, 66, to many the face of Belmar’s business community, has left a hole in the borough that he called home for nearly two decades.
Perhaps there is nowhere in Belmar that his absence is more felt than at his hair salon on 10th Avenue, Salon Marsal. In a bid to keep his legacy alive, workers say they will continue to keep the salon open after Mr. Marchese’s death.
Fran Tomaini, who worked with him at the salon for 17 years, said she and Mr. Marchese “were like brother and sister,” having known each other their whole lives, even when he was in New York City working at some of the most recognizable salons.
“We kept the shop alive, we really did; this was his life. The shop was his life,” Ms. Tomaini said. She took over operation of the salon 10 months ago, as Mr. Marchese fought brain cancer.
“I went through the whole thing with him,” she said, adding that the last time she spoke with Mr. Marchese was the Monday before his death. “He was a fighter. Sal was a fighter.”
“He was excellent. He worked in New York for the best – Vidal Sassoon, Fredrick Fekkai, Bob Recine – Sal was the best, he was,” Ms. Tomanini said. “He loved what he did. He loved creating. He was an artist.”
Mr. Marchese led the Belmar Business Partnership, a special improvement district set up to promote local business, since its inception 10 years ago. He advocated for borough businesses, not afraid to get involved, whether it be setting up banners, planters or even Christmas lights throughout Main Street.
His death on July 5 followed a years-long battle with brain cancer, and life in Belmar seems dimmer.
An obituary that ran in The Coast Star’s July 15 edition said that Mr. Marchese passed away at his home surrounded by his family.
On Wednesday, July 14, his family held a funeral service at St. Rose Church, on Fourth Avenue, in Belmar, a town where he dedicated years of his life.
“He was very important for the town. He did a lot for Belmar,” Mary Marchese, mother of Mr. Marchese, who lives in Wall Township, said. “I just miss him, everything about him.”
Mr. Marchese’s impact can be felt all over Belmar. He was a member of the borough’s planning board, organized the annual Belmar Kite Fest, brought classic cars to downtown Belmar during cruise nights and sold popcorn during movie screenings on the beach over the summer. For his services, he was the recipient of the Belmar’s Feast of San Gennaro Italian/American Businessman of the Year Award in 2019.
In a statement, the Belmar Business Partnership said, “During his 10-year tenure as BBP President, Sal worked tirelessly to improve the Belmar business district.”
Those who worked with him say “to know him was to love him,” a feeling that won out no matter what.
Wendy Daily, a stylist, started working at the salon last year but trained with Mr. Marchese when he worked in New York City.
“There are just the things he would say no one would ever get away with. You either loved him or you hated him, sometimes both.”
“He used to bother me constantly,” Ms. Tomaini said when asked what her favorite memory of Mr. Marchese will be. “He used to call me constantly. To know him was to love him. He was one of a kind.”
“He was just his own person, he really was,” Diane Calabrese, another worker at the salon, said. “He was tough, but he was fun, he really was.”